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Judge says evidence, statement can be used in murder trial

November 19, 2005|By PEPPER BALLARD

pepperb@herald-mail.com

The younger of two men charged with the November 2004 beating death of Curtis Eugene Hill Sr. was not coerced into making a statement to police nor did police improperly search his grandparents' house, a Washington County Circuit judge ruled Friday.

Assistant Public Defender Eric Reed and Deputy Public Defender Mary Riley, attorneys for Justin Kyle Marshall, 18, argued during an October hearing that Marshall's taped statement to police should not be offered as evidence during his January trial because, they asserted, it was improperly induced. Attorneys also sought to keep out evidence recovered during a subsequent search of his grandparents' house. Marshall's grandmother, Mary Mowen, had testified she was told "It would be best for Justin" if police searched the house.

Circuit Judge Donald E. Beachley, in a written opinion, ruled Friday that the statement and the evidence recovered during the search can be used at trial.

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Beachley wrote that he did not believe Marshall's testimony that Hagerstown Police Department Sgt. Curtis Wood told him, "'Don't be a tough guy' because 'it's only going to get you more time.'" Beachley wrote that he did not believe "Wood or the other officers made the statements attributed to them by Marshall." He noted that Wood did not recall riding in the elevator with Marshall when the statement allegedly was made.

Further discrediting Marshall's testimony, Beachley wrote that Marshall testified he saw "life" and "death" written on the front page of his charging document, which he alleged Detective Shawn Schultz showed him in the interview room. Beachley wrote that "there is no reference to 'life' on the document."

Beachley wrote that Marshall's grandmother allowed police to search her house by signing a consent to search form.

"Although the Court believes that Mrs. Mowen was upset, the Court also believes Schultz's testimony that she read the form and agreed to a search of her home," he wrote.

Marshall and co-defendant Larry Wayne Shriner, 21, have been indicted on charges of first- and second-degree murder, among a series of related counts, in Hill's Nov. 3, 2004, beating death.

Marshall is scheduled to go to trial Jan. 4. Shriner, whose attorney argued Thursday that his untaped statement to police be kept from trial because, he asserted, he didn't understand his rights before waiving them, is scheduled to go to trial Feb. 22.

A decision has not been made on Shriner's statement.

Hill's dead, beaten body was found under a tree by Russo's Rx Pharmacy on North Cannon Avenue in Hagerstown by a passer-by about 7 a.m. Police allege Shriner and Marshall beat Hill earlier that morning, dragged him to that spot and left him there to die, according to charging documents.

Both have been held at the Washington County Detention Center since Nov. 4, 2004, a jail spokeswoman has said.

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